Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Story

Hey all - it's been a while again since my last post. This is a crazy year, and I seriously can't believe what is happening in Washington and on Wall Street. I'll be posting more about this stuff soon.

I thought it might be helpful to post "my story" to give you all some background into how I got to where I am today. Here it is:

I go to a non-target school and decided that I wanted to do banking near the end of my sophomore year. During the following summer, I began reaching out to the few alumni from my school that work at banks both in New York and San Francisco. I sent out many, many emails and called tons of people all under the premise of simply wanting to learn more about the world of investment banking.

While making all of these calls, I got a subscription to the Wall Street Journal and started reading that every day. As per the suggestion of a returning summer intern at my school, I read the Vault Guide to Investment Banking and Vault Guide to Finance Interviews. I also read as many books about investment banking as I could, reading everything from the entertaining stuff (Liar’s Poker / Monkey Business / Barbarians at the Gate) to recruiting stuff (Never Eat Alone / Running of the Bulls) to more technical stuff (Accounting & Valuation books).

I flew myself out to New York four times and to San Francisco once, meeting with everybody from analyst to MD over the course of the next six months. Some of those trips were in groups but most were on my own. In preparation for my trips I took every single summer analyst from my school that had done an internship on Wall Street out to lunch. These one-on-one meetings were really helpful to me because I would just ask them how they got their internships, what they did to be successful, and what types of things I could ask in informational interviews.

I called people working on the Street that I had contacted over the summer to let them know I was coming out, then set up 10-15 visits over the course of a few days. Those visits were informational in nature, but usually led to more introductions and an expansion of my network. I usually started by meeting with analysts, making a good impression, then having them introduce me to more senior people or the rest of their group.

The first time I ever went to New York, I had a layover in Minneapolis. While waiting at my gate to go to New York, I saw a guy standing there holding a Credit Suisse bag. At this point I was just barely starting to grasp what investment banking even was, but I knew that I had to take every opportunity I could to meet investment bankers. I started talking to him and, although it was only five minutes, managed to learn that he was an SVP working in the Consumer group at CS.

We got on the plane (he sat in first class, I sat in the back), and I failed to get his card. I knew that if I was coming out to New York, I needed to meet people, so when we got to JFK, I literally ran through the airport to catch up to him. I finally caught him while he was waiting to be picked up in a black car, and I asked him for his card. He must have thought I was crazy, but I told him my story and that I was just doing everything I can to get a job. It impressed him enough to meet with me later in the week, and I ended up getting interviews at Credit Suisse in New York because of that guy.

In many of the informational interviews I had, I was asked typical questions like, “Why do you want to do banking?” and “What do you know about this bank?” Some people asked me about what groups / industries I was interested in. A few of the interviews actually got into technical issues, such as one Goldman VP who had me tell him all the factors affecting IRR on an LBO.

Especially as time got closer to interviewing season, the informational interviews became more and more like real interviews. Around November people really started asking me tougher questions about leadership / experience / technical stuff. This turned out to be great preparation for actual interviews.

By December I had managed to meet people at every major bank on the Street. I felt like I could really speak freely about why I wanted to do I-banking, what an analyst does, and why one bank differs from another. I was taking finance classes in school, reading the WSJ every day, and reading blogs online like Mergers & Inquisitions (though I didn’t find it until I already started interviews), LSO, Wall Street Oasis, and others. These sites gave me a better feel for what it’s really like in banking, as opposed to the more academic look at finance I had been getting from other books.

When it came time for SA interviews, I called up all of my various contacts at different banks and had them submit my resume. By this time, many of the analysts I had met with and really trusted had already seen multiple iterations of my resume, so I was confident that more senior people would be comfortable passing it on to HR since my analyst friends had given their blessing.

The interviews started coming. My first interviews were in early January, and they went on through February and even into March for some firms. I had done numerous mock interviews with analysts and even some associates and a VP at different banks in preparation for interviews, so I felt very confident going into the interviews. At every bank that I interviewed at, I received an offer to come on as an intern.

While a handful of firms actually do recruit at my school (almost exclusively for the West-coast offices), I only interviewed on-campus for Credit Suisse LA (and got an offer), but really wanted to start in New York. I accepted an offer with a BB bank in New York and had a great time there this summer.

I started this blog over the summer because I wanted a source for people looking to understand banking on a day-to-day basis. There are a lot of “Week in the life” posts around the internet and in the Vault Guide, but I wanted to give people a look at my entire internship. It's been fun to write it all down and hear from people all over the world who are reading the blog. I plan on continuing as I go full-time to let people know what it's like now with so many things changing.

I did very well in my internship, was rated highly, and received an offer to return full-time. Although I had a great experience, I decided to interview around. At this point for the first time I looked at boutique banks instead of only focusing on the bulge brackets. The problem was that there wasn’t a single alumnus from my school at any boutique on the Street, so all the contact I had with these banks was cold calling.

Because I had spent significant time on my resume (I'm still doing resume reviews if you're interested!), I felt confident in sending my resume out to other banks. I put together my cover letters and resume, then just sent my resume out to various boutiques. I was specifically interested in restructuring.

Similarly, I used LinkedIn and other online databases to get names of people at firms, and I found a way to make a connection enough that I could call them or send them my resume. It was awkward at first, but I had the attitude of, “I already have a good offer, so what do I have to lose? If they turn me down, it’s no problem.” I think having confidence really made a difference for me.

From some of the boutiques, I got an email back saying they would be reviewing my resume. Others directly called me back and invited me to come in and meet some people. At one boutique in particular, I went in the day after I got a call and met with their head of recruiting, head of M&A, and the analyst/associate staffer. Because I was able to do well in those interviews, they invited me back for final rounds “whenever I could make it back to New York.” I just let them know when I could come, and they set up six more interviews for me.

Because I was out early talking to firms, it seemed like all of my interviews were very unorthodox. Literally all of my first-round interviews with boutiques were kind of on-the-fly and not official in any way. People would just email a colleague, ask if they could talk with me for 15 minutes, and away we would go. Final rounds were more structured, but I was still interviewing in August before all of the official on-campus recruiting started.

I’ve come to see now that it was vital for me to get out there early. Many of the firms now are only looking at people from target schools. I know this because a lot of my friends who are just as qualified couldn’t get interviews with the same firms I met with in August.

Through efforts like these, I was able to get interviews and some offers from many top boutiques (Lazard, HLHZ, Greenhill, Miller Buckfire, Audax Group). I reached out to contacts that I had made over the past year at many other BB firms, and was able to get offers at two different BBs as well. I feel extremely blessed to have options in a year like this, and I directly attribute it to the work I put in over the past year to not only build a network, but also to study my brains out so that when I meet new people I can speak to things that they are interested in.

One interesting side note – about a year ago now I met a guy working at Morgan Stanley. Right after I met him, he was asked to come down to Treasury to work on mortgages and housing markets. Well it turned out that he needed an intern for the fall semester. I had stayed in touch with him, and heard about the internship spot. I applied and got the internship.

So because I met this guy at Morgan Stanley, I worked at Treasury for four months. He is running part of this $700B bailout and I worked directly for him on the team. It was an amazing experience and just another testament to the power of networking and doing your homework.

So that's my story. I'll be heading back to NYC in June to start it all over again full-time.


Anonymous said...

it would be very helpfull if you can post some suggestions for the guys thinking of attending B-schools in the near future?
what do you think about selecting finace stream?is it still worth it?

jjpp said...

did you choose to go to a boutique or to BB in the end? Also, what's your opinion on Moelis compared to other boutiques?

Cory said...

Awesome blog, keep the posts coming!! I'm also curious to get your perspective on B-school.

Anonymous said...

That's a really inspiring story. I'm glad to hear it worked out for you and good luck as you graduate and begin your career.

Anonymous said...

awesome post! wish i could be like you!

markstewy said...

Whenever I need motivation I just read your blog. Thanks for sharing your story!

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for sharing your experiences. Please update your blog more often!

Vanck said...

Really, really good information. Goes to show what good, hard work can do for you. Please keep the posts coming.

AmeliaKelly said...

Unbelievable guts. there's really no substitute for aggressive networking, but it's also so important to know your stuff when the time comes to open your mouth. to that end, I agree with you on vault... their banking internship page is a pretty good resource for Q&A and does and don'ts... and for god's sake, do like this guy and read the WSJ! you can't be too informed, and it's invaluable for smart small talk.